There are many access to justice issues and people who have a problem with their lawyer. Many people who feel wronged by another individual or company initially feel excited about starting a lawsuit to “get justice.” When these individuals initially reach out to a law firm , they often speak of getting “the truth” out in the open.
These individuals are in for a rude awakening. As we have seen with the criminal case of Meng Wanzhou, for those that can afford top-quality lawyers, they can avoid issues quite easily through the courts.
For the average person who can’t or won’t spend tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees, justice is more of a theoretical concept than a reality.
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Clients Have Unrealistic Expectations
Many individuals and small to medium-sized businesses have no understanding of how long, complex, and experience litigation is.
They assume their lawyer will just show up in court, show the judge the “evidence”, and the judge will make an immediate court order. There will be no delays, adjournments, and the opposing side will have nothing to say.
Once the judge makes the court order, the client believes that the other side will immediately pay up and won’t appeal the case.
This sort of thinking comes from Hollywood and has no basis. In the legal TV shows or movies, the court part of the dispute is just the exciting part of the closing arguments.
You Can Get as Much Justice as You Can Afford
Here is how the litigation plays out in the client’s mind. Let’s say the lawyer’s hourly rate is $400/hour, which is an average fee.
The lawyer has to prepare for court for only one hour, and then the hearing would take only thirty minutes. In total, that’s $600 in legal fees for the trial. Anyone in the legal industry knows this is nonsense. A three-day hearing can cost $60,000.
Outside of the countless back and forth emails, there are problems with the system. Once a lawsuit is started and both sides have filed their positions, either side can file an application to the court at any time. Adjournments and delays are common.
Litigation Goes on for Years | Access To Justice Issues
Court applications deal with many issues that can happen before the trial date. Let’s say you hire a lawyer, and the other side wants to get a court order to change their position or the paperwork they filed. Your lawyer might have to speak to the judge for ten minutes in court.
The lawyer charges $400/hour, and they must spend three hours getting ready for the hearing. There are filings that must be done before the hearing. The lawyer must be ready to answer any questions from the judge.
During the hearing, your lawyer might have to wait a few hours to get heard. You can easily spend $2000 on legal fees for something that only takes ten minutes. This situation happens often.
This leads some people to not trust their lawyers, even though it’s not the lawyer’s fault. They will blame their lawyer for allowing the other side to rack up their bill by $2000 so easily.
For this reason, many people fire their lawyers. They then decide they can save some money and try it themselves.
The number of documents required during a lawsuit can be shocking in both their number of pages and their complexity. The average person doesn’t stand a chance against an experienced lawyer.
Judges Are Also Unhappy with the System
Judges often get annoyed when someone comes to court with legal advice that they got from Facebook or Youtube. Also, many of these self-represented individuals (people without a lawyer) do not know the rules of the court.
They forget to file things, and then adjournments are often graciously ordered by the judges.
To try and prevent people that don’t know what they are doing from filing random paperwork, judges can make the person without a lawyer pay the other person’s legal fees. The judges want to make sure that they are accountable for their actions.
The courts are hit with applications and appeals from self-represented individuals that a judge would never accept.
Access To Justice Issues | Problem With A Lawyer
I have seen a judge issue a “fine” of $12,000 against a lady from someone who didn’t want to fly to a nearby city to be questioned by the lawyer for the other side.
The legal system is broken. During COVID-19, it’s time to find a better system where all can have access to justice by using legal professionals.
Alistair Vigier is the CEO of Clearway Law, a Chinese company that connects people that need a lawyer with a law firm.